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Wednesday, 2 January, 2002, 16:55 GMT
Shoppers wise up to the euro
News Online reporter Steve Dixon, euros and socks
Ten euros bought a pack of Marks socks
By News Online's Steve Dixon

The lady behind the counter at Marks and Spencer in Cardiff was taken by surprise when I handed her a 10 euro note (6) to pay for my socks.

Fortunately, a supervisor darted across and fiddled with buttons on the till, revealing a conversion system - but that still left the problem of what change I was owed.

She handed me 6p back and thanked me for being patient.
euro notes
Euros are accepted in some UK high street stores - but are not legal tender

Marks is one of several high street stores in Wales accepting the euro and giving change in sterling.

I was the only third customer of the day at the HSBC bureau de change to ask for euros, where a standard 3 commission is charged.

My 20 was converted into 30 euros and I set off to find stores willing to take the small notes, which feature bridges and windows.

I had been told Burger King and WH Smith were euro-friendly.

But my attempts to buy a BK Royale and milk shake with a 10 euro note were met with a shake of the head.

I queued in WH Smith to buy a newspaper and chocolate, but again I was thwarted - Smith's only accept euros at their airport branches.

Britain opted not to join the euro in the first round, but shoppers in the New Year sales in Cardiff seemed to be warming to the idea.
Steven and Rhiannon Murray
Steven and Rhiannon Murray: Divided opinion

Teacher Steven Murray was out shopping with his wife Rhiannon and they disagreed on how they would vote at a referendum on joining the euro.

"I would worry how it would affect our economy and the idea of Europe overtaking our interest rates would worry me," said Mrs Murray.

"If we were going to enter, it should have been in the first round."

Businessman Bob Mills from Gloucestershire was in Cardiff to see clients of his packaging firm.

"I believe the information retailers have been given about the euro is a means of bringing in the currency through the back door," he said.

I would be very unhappy about the European Bank setting our interest rates

Professor Mike Bruton, university lecturer

"The value of our products will alter and we are looking at a 3-7% increase to cover the cost of handling two currencies."

Anglican chaplain Paul Overend formerly worked as an engineer. He explained that his old firm had been unable to price a contract bid in Europe because of confusion over the currency differences.

"With a single exchange system, you are in a position of operating better internationally."

George and Margaret Lewis, both 67, from Cardiff, spend six months of the year living in France and were well aware of its preparations for the euro.

"It is a time of transition and we have to accept the euro and get rid of the pound," said Mr Lewis.

Chaplain Paul Overend and Juanita Bateman: 'Better for UK'

"I probably would not have said yes to the euro two years ago, but things have changed," said Mrs Lewis.

Traffic warden Mervyn Davies, from Merthyr Tydfil, said he was worried overseas firms based in Wales might pull out of the UK if Britain did not enter the euro.

Mr Davies said he was looking forward to only having to think about one currency when he heads off on a Mediterranean cruise this summer.

Cardiff University professor Mick Bruton said he was not against the euro but deeply sceptical about its benefits to the UK.

"I would be very unhappy about the European Bank setting our interest rates.
Mike Hoare:
Mike Hoare: Undecided

"The French and the Germans have a similar state pension system to us, but they make much more generous payments. They are likely to struggle with paying them."

Underwriter Mike Hoare, 24, said he was looking forward to using the new currency when he goes on holiday to Spain in March - but he was undecided about Britain joining.

"I do not think we should be left behind in Europe, but people need to know more."

Lithuanian Galina Artisien, 33, said she believed there were economic benefits in the long-term for the UK.

"I would trust the European Bank to set interest rates. I think if so many European countries have decided to pool their forces, Britain should join."

BBC Wales's Rhodri Lewis
sees the euro arrive at Cardiff Airport
See also:

02 Jan 02 | Wales
Traders primed for euros
31 Dec 01 | Business
Europe hails 'historic' euro
14 Dec 01 | Business
Paris rush for euro-starter kits
30 Dec 01 | Europe
Lira noughts will be missed
31 Dec 01 | Business
Q&A: Euro cash launch
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